When I first started my blog, Unprecedented Mediocrity, I didn't even know paid writing was a thing. It never occurred to me that when I was reading blogs about various products or researching what's wrong with HVAC unit, that someone was getting paid to write those words on the internet. I just assumed the company had someone on staff who pulled that off. That's when I discovered the world of freelance writing. I landed my first gig to write about stops along the Shinkansen, which is the Japanese bullet train. I've never been to Japan and I've never been on a bullet train, but I did know how to Google. Each description paid $15 bucks and I could 2, maybe three an hour. Fast forward five years to today and I'd never write for $15 bucks. I don't open my laptop for anything less than $75 and hour and I rarely take single hour projects anymore. So how do you go from not knowing writing existed to making $75 to $100 an hour doing just that? Stick around and you'll find out.
Never Go First When Negotiating Payment
As I've mentioned before, writing is a lucrative side gig for me as I've got a thriving nonprofit executive job as well. When interviewing for a previous ED job I held, the subject of salary came up. The board panel asked me what I wanted to make and I gave a very skilled and flowery answer that never gave a number. One of the board members who as a savvy businessman replied, "You don't want to go first, do you?" I said yes, we laughed, and I got the job.
However, that same principle is true when negotiating freelance writing rates. Clients value the same work different and clients have different budgets that will allow them to pay more in some cases. So just because one client paid you $50 for an article doesn't mean that another won't pay you $100 for the exact same piece of writing.
So when possible, let them define their budget. You'll be surprise just how often they go much higher than you thought you could ask. Then, once you realize what some clients are willing to pay, you can move up your base rate and start looking for clients who can pay the same. If financial hardship hits, I can always go back down to $25 to $50 bucks and hour and land jobs left and right. However, now that I'm higher I can be pickier with the jobs I take. So let the client define their budget first and you go last.
Pitch a Package of Services
I've found that with a good number of clients, they truly don't know what the writing is worth. This doesn't mean you take advantage of them, but you do have to educate them on what to expect. I've had success in moving clients up to higher rates by pitching a package of services. For instance, my base rate is $75 an hour and that's how I base my pitches.
So rather than say, $75 an article, I ask them to consider their marketing budget and see how much they have to spend each week on content or copy. I'll say something like for $450, you can get two long articles, and one short. This gives them control over picking and choosing their options and they are more likely to say yes, because they came up with the final package.
You Will Have to Raise Rates on Your Existing Clients
Finally, and this is a hard one, but there will come a day where you will have to raise rates on your existing clients. It's hard, but necessary. You see, many of you are going to get your start with $25 to $50 buck content articles. It's still a good rate, but not truly where it should be. However, this is how you learn and get paid to learn at the same time.
Friends, when you can start landing $75 or $100 an hour jobs, you have to let go of the time consuming entry level gigs. It may be that those early clients simply don't have the budget for it. Or, maybe they knew they were getting great writing for cheap and was taking advantage to some degree of your willingness to learn. Yet, at some point, they need to pay you the rate you now commanding.
So that's it and I think you can apply many of those principles to work outside of freelance writing. If you would like to learn how I got my start writing and how I've made over six-figures in my spare time, check out my copywriting course, The Veteran Copywriter. You can grab the first lesson for free and I'll guide you along the path that created financial freedom for my family. Best of luck to you all and don't forget to check out the course.